My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues
Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, has kept a Book of Books (her "Bob") since she was seventeen years old -- as she writes, "It’s my way of keeping track. Because if I didn’t write it all down, I worry (naturally), I would forget it."
This memoir hit all the right notes for me; I resonated with Pamela *so much* because of her love for books and her desire to record them ("For a girl who often felt like she lived more in the cozy world of books than in the unforgiving world of the playground, a book of books was the richest journal imaginable; it showed a version of myself I recognized and felt represented me.") Also the little things - like how she "learned how to speak more from what [she] read than from what [she] heard," so she mispronounced a ton of things - I kept thinking to myself, omg I do that too.
This year, I somehow read 100+ books. Some days, I worry I pushed myself to read 100 books so I could look back on the year and say, "in 2017, I read 100 books." Pamela, similarly, faced critiques of her Book of Books: "Were the books truly being read for their own sake or in pursuit of some goal that sullied the entire enterprise?" But she justifies it: her record is, in a way, keeping track of her life. Pamela's memoir was a love letter to books, and the perfect way to end my year of 100 books (even though it was book #98).
Each chapter centers on a different book - Brave New World is about her as an angsty teen; Into that Darkness about touring Eastern Europe; The Hunger Games as a mom; A Wrinkle in Time is about reading with children.
This is for all book lovers - you will see yourself in her writing. Why does she love to read?
It’s not exactly about escape. It’s about experiencing something I would otherwise never have the chance to experience. To know what it’s like to be a merchant marine in the South Pacific precisely because I never will be a merchant marine in the South Pacific. To experience a Norwegian boyhood in the early twentieth century like Roald Dahl’s because I would otherwise never know what it meant to grow up just outside the Arctic Circle, to walk miles to get to the nearest dentist, to be beaten with a cane by a cruel headmaster. Books answer that persistent question, “What is that really like?” By putting you in the place of a character unlike yourself in a situation unlike your own, a good book forges a connection with the other. You get to know, in some way, someone you never would have otherwise known, to live some other life you yourself will never live.